Premium members Kay Howitt and Lynne Tramonte are the two kickass female founders behind swimwear label, Monte & Lou. The Sydney-based best friends have worked together for some of Australia’s biggest brands and share over 35 years of fashion industry knowledge. When retailers kept asking Kay to bring out her own label, the pair got together and launched in 2018. Twelve months later, Monte & Lou had hit over $1 million in sales, and secured a deal with David Jones.
We chatted to the duo as part of our Work Wives series, profiling women who support and champion each other at work. Read on to find out more about these two talented women and their gorgeous swimwear label.
Kay and Lynne first met while working for swimwear designer Brian Rochford in the 80s, and both went on to work at multiple swim design houses in Australia and overseas. Together, the pair ran the Development Sales Department for seven years at Seafolly, and Kay has designed pieces within the competitive swim market for Speedo and Zoggs and acted as Head Designer for Isola by Megan Gale.
In 2016, Kay created swimwear brand Miléa, which grew rapidly into a multimillion dollar swimwear brand. It’s not surprising that after leaving the brand, it didn’t take long for retailers to ask the designer to start her own label. After a couple of serious discussions, Kay and Lynne decided to put their combined 35 years of swimwear design and business knowledge to the test and start Monte & Lou.
“Kay is the best swimwear designer in the industry. Her attention to detail, design aesthetic, passion for swimwear and work ethic are amazing. We both know our strengths and we trust each other. We have gone through the good and the bad times together and experienced marriage, having children and sickness. Despite all of this we have always maintained a strong friendship” says Lynne.
“Seven years ago, Lynne supported me through breast cancer by taking on extra work that was above and beyond her own busy management role. This helped ease some of the stress that comes with working through chemo and radiation treatment.”
Kay mirrors Lynne’s kind words. “She has an amazing work ethic and a very positive attitude when it comes to us achieving. It’s rare to meet someone within a working environment that stays a friend for life, but that’s what Lynne is to me,” says Kay.
“We have experienced lots of fun times together and some very tough times over the years. Seven years ago, Lynne supported me through breast cancer by taking on extra work that was above and beyond her own busy management role. This helped ease some of the stress that comes with working through chemo and radiation treatment.” It is clear that the huge amount of respect and love each of the women have for each other, both professionally and personally, has helped turn Monte & Lou into a success story.
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When reflecting on International Women’s Day and jumping into business with your best friend, Lynne and Kay suggest first to make sure you’re aware of each others core values. “Write them down separately and then come together to confirm them.” says Lynne. “Writing down a partnership agreement was a great idea. Even though we had clear strengths in different areas, we have kept each other involved in every aspect so we aren’t just good friends, but a real team,” says Kay.
For anyone wanting to kick start a business in 2020, Kay advice is to be open to advice and negotiating. ‘Seek out mentors, and don’t be afraid to negotiate on everything as we found so many people are willing to help you get established’. Lynne adds, ‘You will never know everything! Ask lots of questions, don’t assume anything and get help when you need it’.